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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Faith and Love, Maundy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, the Catholic Church remembers the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders. On that same evening, Jesus gave a  Mandatum Novum (new commandment).  In the Middle Ages, this day became known as  Maundy Thursday from the word, mandatum. St. John Henry Newman teaches us the relationship between Faith and Love in a sermon which bears this title. 

He begins by citing St. Paul’s description of  love from the second Letter to the Corinthians, and at once he makes note of  a difficulty: “if love be such as St. Paul describes, it is not all virtues at once; and I answer, that in one sense it is all virtues at once, and therefore St. Paul cannot describe it more definitely, more restrictedly than he does.” 

Immediately, Newman supplies the answer: love is the root of all holy dispositions and grows and blossoms into them: they are its parts; and when this is described, they (the virtues) of necessity are mentioned. Love is the material (so to speak) out of which all graces are made, the quality of mind which is the fruit of regeneration, and in which the Spirit dwells; according to St. John’s words, “Every one that loveth, is born of God;” … “he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” [1 John iv. 7, 16.] 

St. Newman proceeds to compare and contrast faith and love, these two important virtues. He provides an analogy between love and a seed that bears a plant:

“Love, then, is the seed of holiness, and grows into all excellences, not indeed destroying their peculiarities, but making them what they are. A weed has stalk, leaves, and flowers; so has a sweet-smelling plant; because the latter is sweet-smelling, it does not cease to have stalk, leaves, and flowers; but they are all pleasant, because they come of it.”

St. John Henry explains that all these parts of the plant arise from the soul: “In that soul one and all exist in love, though distinct from it; as stalk, leaves, and flowers are as distinct and entire in one plant as in another, yet vary in their quality, according to the plant’s nature.”

Aquinas had earlier taught that charity is the form of all the virtues. By this we can understand that charity gives the other virtues their perfection, or that without charity, those virtues are incomplete. Charity directs all the virtues to the last end (Summa Theologiae II-II, q 23, a 8).

Continuing with the analogy of a plant, Newman notes that love, not faith, is the root of a plant. To make his point he comments: “In our Lord’s parable of the Sower; in which we read of persons who, “when they hear, receive the word with joy,” yet having no “root,” [Luke viii. 13.] fall away. Now, receiving the word with joy, surely implies faith; faith, then, is certainly distinct from the root, for these persons receive with joy, yet have “no root.” However, Newman explains that both virtues work together; he calls love the end, and faith the means.

Newman had plenty of opportunities to practice charity. He displayed patience with the Oratorians with whom he lived, including one whom he thought did not understand him, and another who opposed him. He forgave the latter, Fr. Frederic Faber, and visited him in London when Faber was close to death. Newman exercised patience for years with the Archbishop of Dublin and Archbishop of Westminster in dealing with them over different matters. It was not always easy on him but the future saint persevered in love.

The Lord’s Mandatum Novum was termed “new’ regarding the measure with which we are to love others: “as I have loved you.” At Easter we wish to die with Christ and to rise with Him, in other words, to die to ourselves and live with Christ. Let us ask the Lord to send his Spirit upon us that we might live with his charity, to nourish the roots of our virtues.

“Faith is the first element of religion,” Newman notes,  “and love, of holiness; and as holiness and religion are distinct, yet united, so are love and faith.” He urges to be like Samuel in the temple who is the type of love whereas Eli, the priest, is a type of faith. He writes: “Love then is the motion within us of the new spirit, the holy and renewed heart which God the Holy Ghost gives us.” 

To love like Christ, we cannot love only those who love us and treat us well. We must be patient with those who are taxing or annoying; we must forgive those who injure us; we must wish well to those who mistreat us. In this way we will be loving as Christ did on the Cross when He prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Consider if there is someone in your family whom you need to understand better or to forgive. Ask the Holy Spirit for a growth in charity that will make your heart more Christ-like.


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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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